Posts Tagged ‘workplace discrimination’

Breaking the mould – gender stereotyping

October 22, 2009

The problem: occupational segregation
The gender pay gap is caused by a range of factors, which can be categorised as either direct discrimination, where women are directly being paid less to do work of equal value or skill than their male counterparts (40%), or indirect discrimination, where more complex factors contribute to the difference in pay. One example of indirect discrimination is occupational segregation where women or men are concentrated in certain jobs. In turn, there is a tendency for female-dominated to be lower-paid, regardless of the skill level required. An example of a typically female-dominated job being paid, or valued, less than that of an equal or lower-skilled job is that people pay more to have their cars looked after than their children. Speech therapists (99% of whom are women) are paid less than clinical psychologists (the majority of whom are male) – an issue that was successfully challenged in the European courts in Enderby v Frenchay Health Authority.

Such a trend can also be seen with graduates. Although women make up the majority of graduates (59%) the areas of study they are concentrated in tend to be less well-paid industries, with men dominating in the more lucrative sectors, for example information technology, mathematics, science and engineering.

First impressions last – giving the right careers advice

A recent report by the Women and Work Commission highlighted the problem of gender-biased careers advice being given to schoolchildren under the age of 14, encouraging girls to try work experience placements or take up work in traditionally female areas of employment such as clerical and caring work and leading to girls being less likely to choose a “typically” male career. In the report, “Break gender stereotypes, give talent a chance!” the Commission called for children to be encouraged to find work most suited to their skills not gender, therefore allowing a fairer distribution of skills and talent across the economy.

The more segregation, the larger the pay gap
Statistics show that in countries where there is a high level of occupational segregation, there is higher overall pay inequality. Examining the gender pay gap within each sector itself is even more illuminating, with the largest gender pay gaps occurring within the sectors that are traditionally male-dominated, such as financial services, manufacturing and business services. In such sectors there is often a big difference between pay levels at the top and bottom of the pay scale, with men concentrated in the higher up positions.

Assessing value
So, although important, reducing job segregation is only part of the solution. Properly recognising the value of typically “female” jobs is also vital to closing the pay gap, and to ensuring that within all sectors, equal opportunity allows employees to rise to the higher ranks based on their abilities alone. Women dominate in the areas of health, education and the civil service – all vital roles but not among the higher-paid professions. Therefore it’s time that such sectors were remunerated in a way which fairly reflects the skills required for such positions, equal to other positions with similar skills.

See also the Fawcett report

Just below the surface: gender stereotyping, the silent barrier to equality in the modern workplace?

And our case study on Sweden’s example